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March 25, 2006

Caught Unawares


The missus, while we were out to dinner last night. I don't think she caught me snapping a picture of her with the cell phone this particular time, although I got a couple of other snaps in which she was fully aware.

In other news, I'm finding the cell phone (which most of you will remember I'm getting for free) to be useful, although not magically so. It's stuffed with a bunch of extras but I'm mostly using it for Web surfing and picture taking, with the occasional phone call. In each case it's the third best option I have for each -- it's nice to snap a picture with one's cell phone, for example, but I'd rather use my camera; it's fine for calling someone but I'd rather use my home phone or Skype if I'm on the road. It's primary advantage is being portable, and overall I guess I can blame it for being a jack of all trades and master of none. And it's my understanding relative to other cell phones, mine is pretty damn cool. This is what I get for being so late to the cell phone party, I suppose. I don't really have a frame of reference.

What I would like to see, of course, is something that actually does everything with some measure of competence. One of the things that appeals to me about those upcoming "ultra-mobile PCs" is that they seem to have the capability to do everything I'd want a portable device to do, with a useful form factor. If someone would build a cell phone in one those things, that'd be something I'd want to have. In the meantime the cell phone is nice, but I haven't decided whether it's something I'd keep after the six month free period is over.

One nagging feeling I have is that I'm not adequately exploiting the "free" aspect of this phone. Everything about it is free, including the premium services. I should be downloading scads of music off of Sprint's music store so I can own it later when the lights go out. But, eh, I already have iTunes and Rhapsody. Again, the third best option. But perhaps I'm just not looking at it the right way.

Posted by john at March 25, 2006 08:28 AM

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Dean | March 25, 2006 09:31 AM

Convergence continues to converge.

My phone actually has a useful (if brutally expensive) browser, something that was unthinkable ten years ago. It has a camera, although one of such poor quality that it's a sort of Imagemaker of Last Resort. Again, pretty much unthinkable ten years ago. It has a crude GPS locator in it, so websites that are smart enough can tell you which coffee shop is closest.

Where we'll come out, I don't know. I think, at some point, that connectivity will be so cheap, like broadband is now, that we'll be packing around small information appliances. They'll probably still be called 'phones' because that's the name that seems to have stuck. They'll have data storage, probably prodigious by today's standards. They'll have the smarts to know where they are: they'll connect to a handsfree set when you're in your car, for example, or to you home PC to give you access to the data on them.

It's a marvelous world.

Jim Winter | March 25, 2006 10:04 AM

I'm something of a high tech luddite. My first cell was a company cell phone given to my 6 years ago. I've had three of those, and they usually end up in a drawer plugged into a charger at the end of the day. I still resent having to have one.

My first personal phone I got out of necessity as my wife and I took a trip out to western Maryland about 4 years ago. It and the three I've owned since are now my primary means of phone communication. I use the landline mainly for voicemail, if even that.

But I still resent having to carry one. I recently switched to Sprint because T Mobile had to go. Catherine Zeta Jones refused to follow through on her subliminal, yet obvious, promise of sex in exchange for going to T Moble.

Sprint is cheaper, but I keep having to tell them no, I don't want web surfing. I have a laptop for that. No, I don't want music downloads. I can pirate that for... Er... I have iTunes. I don't text. Ever. All I want a phone on my belt for is to make phone calls.

The sales reps' eyes glaze over when I say this, like I've appeared from another time.

"Would you like an ear clip so you don't have to..."

"NO! I don't want to wear my phone on my ear." (Blocks the headphones from my MP3 player. And no, I don't want an MP3 phone. Spoils my music.)

Anne C. | March 25, 2006 10:30 AM

That is a nice photo for a phone camera (both the subject and the resolution). I don't have a frame of reference because I don't have a camera-phone, but it's better than I would expect. I can never convince myself to pay for the phone upgrades; they're giving me a free plain one that does what I want. Besides, the upgrade features always have a hidden monthly cost.

Jon | March 25, 2006 01:59 PM

I admit that I like my cell phone. It can play music, but I don't use it for that. It can take pretty good pictures, and I do that sometimes. I have never used the web browser, but have used it to send e-mail on occasion. Mostly I like the idea of a telephone that is a comm link to a person rather than to a place.

Tom Nixon | March 25, 2006 06:21 PM

My daughter has a T-Mobile Sidekick that for about 30 bucks a month does email, photos, internet, unlimited text messaging, chat, and so on. Interestingly, one of the places where sidekicks have caught on is the Deaf community. It allows them to communicate in ways that did not used to be possible.

She is in eighth grade and it has allowed her to be a teenager much like every other teenager. For the sake of argument, we'll say that is a good thing.

EricD | March 25, 2006 11:20 PM

John - came to your site from your books. I just picked up a new tMobile MDA. Love it. Not as fast as a network as Sprint or Verizon, but QUITE nice. Sprint has an equivalent called the PCS6700. email, web browsing, etc. oh, and it's a phone too!

Steve Brady | March 26, 2006 10:03 AM

That is a nice photo for a phone camera (both the subject and the resolution). I don't have a frame of reference because I don't have a camera-phone, but it's better than I would expect.

I do have a frame of reference, and that's fantastic quality for a camera phone.

What's your highest resolution, John?

rick mcginnis | March 26, 2006 10:23 AM

I take it from the shoji screen that you were eating Japanese that night?

I have cameras coming out the wazoo, thanks to my job, so I didn't go for the cellphone/camera combo, but I love the idea. The proliferation of cheap cameras and videocams has made our experience of the world far more vivid and detailed, more participatory in the purest, democratic sense. Just look at 9/11 - that sort of blanket coverage from every angle wouldn't have happened a few years earlier; I'm sure this plays into Glenn Reynolds' Army Of Davids theory somehow, but I look forward to the day when you can get a camera with a candy bar, a cheeseburger or a subway transfer. (Only partially kidding...)

John Scalzi | March 26, 2006 11:53 AM

Indeed, we were eating Japanese, the first time I have done so in Dayton. I generally make it a rule not to eat Sushi more than 50 miles inland, but all the sushi was fine, which is to say it's not responsible for my being ill.

Steve: The camera is 1.3mpx, so the pictures come out at about 1200x900 pixels. I have a 512MB card in my phone, so I can take about 1300 pictures before I run out of space.

Timmy | March 26, 2006 02:24 PM

"But perhaps I'm just not looking at it the right way."

I recomend taking a pair of glasses and stencilling a dollar symbol on them, crossed out like in a no-smoking sign. Or am I being to literal? I can never tell...

Steve Brady | March 26, 2006 11:40 PM

Steve: The camera is 1.3mpx, so the pictures come out at about 1200x900 pixels. I have a 512MB card in my phone, so I can take about 1300 pictures before I run out of space.


Yeah that's a tad better than mine.

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